Who are the Lutherans in Oklahoma?
Who are the Lutherans in Oklahoma? Even though Lutherans built churches in Oklahoma before statehood, even though one of the oldest churches in Oklahoma, formed among Cherokee Indians in the former Indian Territory, is a Lutheran Church, and even though Lutherans were well represented in the land runs, the Lutheran Church is not exactly the largest Protestant family in Oklahoma. Yet, Lutheran churches ranging from small to large, rural to urban are found in most parts of the state.
When Did It All Start?
As the original Protestant group, Lutherans have a heritage of almost 500 years. The movement of reform that spawned the Protestant churches began on October 31, 1517 by an ordinary yet remarkable man named Martin Luther.
In fact, all Protestant churches consider Martin Luther their spiritual forefather who brought to light again the most vital teachings of the Bible. Because of his efforts Bible reading, hymn singing, and preaching became commonplace in the church. He showed by means of the Bible that through personal faith in Jesus Christ every Christian has access to God.
Eph. 3:12 (NIV) In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Three classic points of emphasis can summarize what Lutherans teach. These are:
GRACE ALONE – FAITH ALONE – SCRIPTURE ALONE
Eph 2:8,9 (NIV) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.
How is a person made right with God? Before the Reformation, the main idea that came across was that a person could gain forgiveness of sins and heaven through performance of good works, and holy acts of pure devotion to God. Most people were uncertain that they had done enough to please God and felt their eternal salvation was in question. Martin Luther was among those who questioned their qualification for heaven.
In those days most people did not have access to Bibles and could not read and study it for themselves. They had to depend on what they were told by church authorities. They were not always told the truth. Even most priests were ignorant of what the Bible taught.
Martin Luther had become a priest. He was also appointed a university professor to teach the Bible. Through his careful study he discovered the simple truth that a person is not saved by human effort, but by God’s grace [undeserved favor or love] as a gift. This grace was demonstrated in the perfect life, the sacrificial death, and the triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Rom 3:22-25 (NIV) There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.
Luther later reflected that when this discovery came to him, it was as though “the gates of paradise swung open before me and I was born anew.”
Rom 5:1 (NIV) Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Acts 16:31 (NIV) They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”
Also in contrast to works or human effort, a person is saved by God’s grace through faith. Faith is simply like the hand which receives and embraces the offered gift. Faith accesses the promised gifts and blessings of God. Faith is made possible in the human heart by the power of the Holy Spirit.
John 5:24 (NIV) “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my words and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
Prov 30:5 (NIV) “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him”
John 20:31 (NIV) But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
2 Tim 3:15-17 (NIV) and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scriptures is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Bible is the authority given to us by God to establish doctrine and to guide us in our daily living. Human religious writings and authorities are valid only when they accurately reflect and teach what Scripture does. Careful reading and scholarship can help us understand God’s intended meaning of the Bible, but only the Holy Spirit, working through the Word, can bring us to truly know God and accept his plan of eternal life for us. The central message of the Bible is Jesus Christ, and its central purpose is to bring us to faith in Him. The entire Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is completely truthful and reliable.
These core beliefs are related to all other truths of Scripture. So Lutherans also believe the following:
There is only one true God. He is the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We agree with the ancient creeds of the Christian Church, which profess the Trinity.
God is the creator of all that exists. He not only made all things, He owns all, and continues to sustain and provide for all living creatures.
Humanity is the crown of God’s creation. God made humans to have a capacity to know and fellowship with Him. Originally people were pure, innocent, holy and righteous, living according to the perfect will of God and intimately, knowing Him.
But Adam and Eve turned against God and brought sin into the world. Since then, all people are born sinners and cannot save themselves. Sin is an attitude of selfish disobedience against God and manifests itself in individual thoughts, words and deeds of wrong.
Psalm 51:5 (NIV) Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Psalm 130:3,4 (NIV) If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. Rom 3:23 (NIV) All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Rom 6:23 (NIV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The presence of sin did not change God’s love for humanity. To save humanity from the guilt, the power and the punishment of sin, God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ into the world. Jesus is true God as well as true man. He lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father, and then died on the cross. Jesus died to suffer the punishment of all the sins of all people.
John 3:16, 17 (NIV) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him”
THE RESURRECTION AND EVERLASTING LIFE
Jesus boldly rose from the dead in complete victory over the power of sin and evil so that we might have eternal life. He ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of the Father. He will come again at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. He will take believers with him to heaven and the unbelievers will be separated forever from him.
John 14:6 (NIV) Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 11:25, 26 (NIV) Jesus said “…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Holy Spirit is truly God. He reveals and brings to us everything that Jesus accomplished in his life, death and resurrection. He makes it possible for us to believe, obey and love. He fills us with joy and the fruit of his ongoing presence within. The Holy Spirit fills the believer with the presence, the power and the gifts of God.
2 Cor 3:18 (NIV) And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit not only calls people into a faith relationship with the Triune God, He gathers them together into the supernatural community called the Church. The true Christian church is made up of all true believers in Christ in every place and time. The church seeks to obey and follow Christ and diligently search out and teach only the truth of the Scriptures.
The church has also been given the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. We believe that the sacraments are more than symbols and reminders of God’s love, but that they offer and deliver spiritual blessings to those who partake of them in faith. Lutherans accept all modes of baptism as correct, when water is applied in the name of the Triune God. Even little children and infants can receive the benefits God has placed into baptism.
Mat 28:19 (NIV) Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:38 (NIV) Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
1 Cor 11:23-27 (NIV) The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took the bread and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper, he took the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
HOW DO LUTHERANS WORSHIP?
Lutherans can worship in a wide variety of styles, as long as such worship is faithful to the Word of God and focuses on Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Lutheran worship includes praise, confession and forgiveness of sins, reading and proclaiming the Word of God, prayer, and with great frequency, celebration of Holy Communion.
Most typically, Lutheran Church worship is celebrated according to the historic traditions and usage of thc Christian church, and includes ceremony, vestments, candles, processions, crosses, seasonal colors. symbols, and hymnody. A sense of reverence is joined to joyful celebration.
WHERE DO YOU FIND LUTHERANS?
Lutherans are in every state of the U.S. and on every continent. The Lutheran Church is the largest Protestant family in the world, and third largest in the U.S., after Baptists and Methodists. They are in every segment of society, and in every race. The greatest numerical presence of U.S. Lutherans will be found in the upper Midwest and Northeast. Yet many large Lutheran churches are found in the South, the West Coast, and in the region of the Rockies.
About 95% of U.S. Lutherans belong to congregations affiliated with the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod [LCMS] or the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America [ELCA]. Immanuel Lutheran in Broken Arrow is in the LCMS. The LCMS takes a more conservative approach in doctrine and the inerrancy of the Bible.
The Lutheran Hour, broadcast over 1500 stations in many languages worldwide, is the largest religious broadcasting network in the world.
The LCMS operates a university system of 10 campuses around the nation, and two graduate seminaries to prepare pastors and missionaries and to develop scholarly researchers in its doctoral programs. The LCMS has numerous partner churches throughout the world, and sends missionaries into about 35 different nations. Churches, schools, colleges, hospitals and institutions of mercy are supported and operated in many of these lands.
THE LUTHERANS WELCOME YOU
Lutherans are eager to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to invite you to share their church as your spiritual home. You can be assured of concerned pastoral care and of careful attention to the truth of God’s Word. The fellowship of our churches is warm and caring. We invite you to know and worship God with us.